Sometimes the hardest part of the work out is taking the extra twenty minutes to cool down and stretch! Sometimes after a really hard work out (or even a not so hard work out) all we want to do is escape the gym, take a cold shower, and go on with our day. But STOP! Stretching and post-work out care is just as important as the actual exercises, and it benefits your joints, muscles and reduces soreness.
Obviously, we all need to dedicate more time to stretching. After strength training or cardio, your muscles are warmed so they’re elastic and pliable. Stretching relaxes the tension exerted from the work out, and while it may not correlate to decreased injuries, it has been shown to decrease next-day soreness in hamstrings, quads and calves. Stretching also induces circulation which accelerates the healing process. Be sure to dedicate at least ten minutes to stretching and hit all major muscle groups that you just previously worked.
Drinking lots of water also helps decrease muscle soreness and increase strength and flexibility. If you weigh yourself before and after a workout, this is the water weight you lost and should be a minimum of water you need to drink to replenish. I follow a more simple method, which is just trying to drink my body weight in ounces of water. Keeping hydrated also curves your appetite, because sometimes your stomach tricks you into think it’s hungry when really you’re only thirsty. Check out Health’s 15 Benefits of Drinking Water.
Rollers and Massages
Ever see those big foam rollers lying around at the gym? There’s actually a use for them. Rolling your muscles out after intense work outs reduce swelling and muscle damage, as well as break up knots. Also, foam rolling helps reduce cellulite, which is just fibrous connective bands pulling fat up to the surface. By creating friction and pressure, the foam roller loosens the bands temporarily and helps stimulate circulation and excess fluids, making the skin appear smoother. If you’re conserving money and do not want to spend upwards of $100 on a massage, investing in a foam roller is definitely the price efficient option. GW HellWell has them near the blue mats, or you can purchase your own for as low as $15 on Amazon.
Once you’re done taking that extra 15-20 minutes to take care of your body, you’re free to go on with your day feeling even better than if you had skipped that cool down!